Chilean Election Keeps Country's Economy on Track

Includes: CH, ECH
by: Carl T. Delfeld

As I predicted, Mr. Sebastián Piñera, a billionaire tycoon and former senator has been elected as Chile’s new president.

With 99 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Piñera, 60, had 52 percent, to 48 percent for Eduardo Frei, 67, a former president. After the first official results were released, Mr. Frei conceded, calling the defeat “just a bump in the road.”

Mr. Piñera’s main campaign theme was his business experience and how he would focus on growing Chile’s already vibrant economy.

During the campaign, Mr. Piñera said that he would create one million new jobs and crack down on delinquency and drug trafficking. He also said he would seek to privatize a part of Codelco, Chile’s state-owned copper company and the world’s largest copper producer.

Chile’s economic performance used to be among the weakest of the Latin American countries, with annual increases of real GDP per capita averaging only 0.76 percent from 1913 to 1983. Then a series of market reforms and trade liberalization supercharged Chile’s economy, and annual growth in per capita output since 1983 has averaged an impressive 4.2 percent per year.

As these reforms took hold, the annual return for Chile’s stock market has averaged 15 percent per year since 1988, meaning that stocks have doubled in value almost every five years during the last several decades.

That is especially good news for the 90 percent of Chileans who have their money invested in a privatized social security system and are receiving pension payments that are 40 to 50 percent higher than the government-operated system, thanks in large part to the attractive returns from Chile’s stock market.

A big part of these results is that Chile has inked free trade agreements with more than 50 countries around the world, which give both its consumers and companies access to more than half of the world’s customers and markets.

Meanwhile, America is struggling with a trade pact with Columbia. We need to think bigger since exports have to lead us back to growth.

Despite Chile’s (NYSEARCA:ECH) attractions, I am removing it from ETF Focus list based on valuations, chance of copper falling and post-election let down.